Cranberry Orange Shortbread Cookies

a stack of cranberry orange cookies

Cranberry Orange Shortbread Cookies might just be the perfect little slice and bake cookies for the holidays, I’ll be making them right through to when I snag that last bag of fresh cranberries of the season (always a sad moment!)

a stack of cranberry orange shortbread cookies

we fell in love with these cranberry orange shortbread cookies at first bite

These unique cookies are made with fresh tart cranberries and lots of orange zest, which gives them that wonderful holiday flavor combination we’ve come to love. And by using fresh cranberries instead of dried, these cookies have a vivid cranberry flavor like no other I’ve tasted. They’ll brighten up any holiday cookie assortment.

a stack of cranberry orange cookies

what you’ll need: it’s a short list!

  • fresh cranberries ~ this is one case where I don’t recommend frozen because they will release too much moisture into the dough. Could you use dried cranberries? Yes, but it would be a completely different cookie.
  • fresh orange zest ~ I actually used tangerine zest because I have a bowl of beauties on my counter, and tangerine has a distinctive citrus flavor that I love.
  • butter ~unsalted
  • sugar ~ granulated
  • flour ~all purpose
  • vanilla extract ~ if you prefer you could use almond extract
slicing a log of cranberry orange shortbread cookie dough

get your holiday baking done early

The good news: shortbread cookies freeze beautifully, and you can freeze them before or after baking.

to freeze before baking

  • wrap the log of dough really well, I like to wrap in plastic, then in foil, and then put in a heavy duty zip log bag. When ready to bake, leave the log in the refrigerator overnight to thaw.

to freeze baked cookies

  • let them cool completely, then layer them, separated by sheets of parchment paper, in a sturdy freezer container and freeze.
cranberry orange cookies on a cooling rack

tips for making fresh cranberry cookies

  • I like to chop my cranberries in a small food processor, I just pulse to chop them finely. Some texture is fine, there will be a few bigger pieces. You can also use a sharp knife.
  • Be sure to start with room temperature butter. Soft butter will incorporate into the flour to form a dough whereas cold butter won’t. This is especially important with shortbread dough that doesn’t include any extra liquid.
  • Be sure to bring your dough together completely ~ you don’t want any dry flour or crumbly bits left. You can let the processor bring it together or you can do that final bit with your hands on a lightly floured surface. Shortbread dough does not contain egg or other liquid so it’s essential that you combine the soft butter and the flour completely to form the dough.
  • Thicker sliced cookies will bake up softer, and thinner ones will crisp a bit. You can also control the texture by how long you bake the cookies. I suggest baking one or two first as a test. I like mine melt-in-my-mouth tender, but you might like your crispier.
cranberry cookies on a cooling rack

more shortbread cookies to try

a plate of cranberry orange shortbread cookies
a stack of cranberry orange cookies
4.96 from 152 votes

Cranberry Shortbread Cookies

Buttery shortbread slice and bake cookies studded with plenty of fresh tart cranberries!
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
chilling 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 27 minutes
Yield 18 cookies
Calories 163kcal
Author Sue Moran


  • food processor (optional)
  • waxed paper or plastic wrap for wrapping your log of dough


  • 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks) at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • zest of one orange or tangerine (just the orange part, not the bitter white pith)
  • 1 heaping cup fresh cranberries
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract


  • Finely chop the cranberries and set aside.
    a bag of fresh cranberries
  • Cream the butter, sugar, and zest together until well combined. I do this in my food procesor.
    creaming butter, sugar, and citrus zest togethr
  • Add the flour and extract, and pulse about 10 times, then run the machine briefly, just until the dough comes together into a lump or lumps.
    Making shortbread dough in a food processor
  • Add the cranberries and pulse just until they are distributed, but don't process too much.
    making cranberry shortbread cookie dough in food processor
  • Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and bring together with your hands. Work it just until it is no longer crumbly.
    Cranberry orange shortbread dough in processor
  • Form the dough into a 10-12 inch log. The longer your log the smaller your cookies will be. Wrap the log in plastic, using the plastic to smooth out the dough and help form your log. Twist the ends tight to seal.
    a log of cranberry shortbread cookie dough
  • Chill the dough for at least 3 hours, or overnight. I like to wrap up my log in a folded towel ~ this helps keep it round as it chills.
    wrapping log of cookie dough in thick towel
  • Preheat the oven to 350F Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper
  • Slice the dough into 1/3 inch slices and place on the cookie sheet, two inches apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or slightly longer if you like your cookies crisper. They will be pale on top and just turning golden on the bottom. Note: if your cookies are smaller or thinner than mine, they may take less time to cook.
    cranberry shortbread cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment
  • Let them cool for a couple of minutes on the baking sheets and then tranfer them to a cooling rack. Be careful, the cookies are soft and delicate when hot and will firm up as they cool.
    cranberry orange cookies on a cooling rack


Calories: 163kcal | Carbohydrates: 16g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 27mg | Sodium: 90mg | Potassium: 18mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 315IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 5mg | Iron: 1mg
The nutritional information for recipes on this site is provided as a courtesy and although tries to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.
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    Leave a Reply

    Please rate this recipe!

  • Reply
    December 13, 2021 at 8:42 pm

    5 stars
    5 stars isn’t enough! Maybe my favorite cookie of all time, but definitely my new favorite Christmas cookie. The flavor is bright and fresh, they melt in your mouth, not overly sweet, and hello – they’re beautiful too! And I’m not gonna lie, they’re lucky they made it to the oven because the dough tastes heavenly completely raw. Thank you so much for this recipe, my whole family thanks you too. They said they taste just like cranberry bread, which we all love! Encore, encore!!

  • Reply
    jennifer schneider
    December 13, 2021 at 5:59 am

    5 stars
    Really enjoyed this recipe! Easy to make, I used the zest from one large naval orange and it was plenty. I just used a hand mixer to blend all ingredients,(was too lazy to bring out the food processor) it worked fine. Will definitely be making more of these as they won’t last long.

  • Reply
    Debra Cole Kelner
    December 6, 2021 at 6:20 pm

    5 stars
    I love the fresh cranberries in this cookie and they are so tender. I had some citrus sugar I’d made when I had a surplus of lemons so I used that as the sugar and also added the zest of an orange and some tangerines. Yummy! Another winner.

  • Reply
    November 13, 2021 at 5:32 pm

    5 stars
    I can not wait to make these. I make a lot of Cookies for the Holidays. I have a Recipe for a Cookie that is Over 45 years Old. It makes 100 or more at One Time. Last year I Only made about 2500.Yes that is Right 2500. I am use to making 3500 to 4000 of just One Cookies and Decorate them also. But had some Major Surgery so could not. But I am Ready for this year. I have all ready made Over 500 in the Past 3 Days. Thank you for Sharing and can wait to Make These. Happy Holidays From Florida.

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      November 13, 2021 at 6:49 pm

      Happy baking Susie ~ and definitely check back all season for new cookie recipes, I love them too!

    • Reply
      Brenda Williams
      November 20, 2021 at 3:56 pm

      5 stars
      These cookies sound great. I’m anxious to try them!

  • Reply
    November 9, 2021 at 3:07 am

    Do you think this recipe would work with dried cranberries? Where I live, we can’t get fresh but can get dried cranberries…

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      November 9, 2021 at 5:22 am

      You could use them but of course it would be a very different bread.

      • Reply
        Barb Wallisch
        November 24, 2021 at 2:33 pm

        I was thinking of making with dried cranberries also. I’m going to rehydrate in cranberry juice for a little while. We’ll see how that works. p

        • Reply
          Maria Dang
          November 27, 2021 at 8:02 pm

          Am curious, did your rehydrate method worked, Barb ?

          • Maria Dang
            November 27, 2021 at 8:13 pm

            Its OK Barb, I found the answer.
            Maria :Dmm

  • Reply
    November 1, 2021 at 3:31 pm

    5 stars
    Loved these! I added more zest, turned out great!

  • Reply
    Sue-Hee Kim Doyle
    October 21, 2021 at 9:23 pm

    5 stars
    I don’t know why but I’ve always been intimidated by shortbread recipes. I had leftover cranberries from Thanksgiving and found your recipe. It’s so easy, smells amazing and simply delicious! A new staple in my baking repituior. Thank you! Time to explore your other shortbread!

  • Reply
    Donna Kelso
    October 21, 2021 at 12:58 pm

    Can’t wait to make for this Christmas. Something different. Thank you

  • Reply
    October 11, 2021 at 5:58 pm

    What would happen if I made the dough, but froze it instead of fridge, and sliced and baked them at a later date? Not sure how the cranberries would do.

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      October 11, 2021 at 6:16 pm

      The cranberries will be finely chopped, so the dough freezes well.

  • Reply
    January 10, 2021 at 4:38 pm

    4 stars
    My husband didn’t care for these, saying they didn’t have enough flavor. I think they might be better if I used the rind of two oranges instead of one, but for now, I’m going to make an orange glaze or frosting to put on them to amp up the orange flavor a little more. Other than that, I really enjoyed them, so yay, more for me!

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